Endangered Alphabets

Here’s an interesting project called “Endangered Alphabets” that features Baybayin. It’s great to see where our script is within context to other endangered writing systems. The carver and person (Tim Brookes) speaking in the video makes some interesting comments regarding the current state of Baybayin.

He states that it’s purely a graphic element and devoid of meaning. He fails to mention that there are actually still a few tribes that use the script. Modern Filipinos are beginning to use it in communication via Facebook and Twitter. Baybayin has a lot of meaning to Filipinos in the literal and spiritual sense from the Babaylans, faith healers and to even those who get the script tattooed on them. I believe that Baybayin as part of an abstract expression as I do in my artwork is not really prevalent. People (Filipinos) usually buy shirts because of the meaning, not design.

What do you think?

4 thoughts on “Endangered Alphabets

  1. He fails.

    He says, “in a functional way extinct” while it is not so; our Mangyan tribes of Mindoro never stopped using it and still continues to use it for their everyday writing as well as their epic poems.

    He implied that it is an example of a form of writing that is “driven underground” by encroachment of a colonial power. Not exactly. While the western writing system gradually gained acceptance and popularity among the locals, the use of baybayin script was never discouraged by the colonizers.

    And finally, his statement that “the joke of course there is that no one knows what the letter actually is and how to pronounce it, it’s purely a graphic element”, he fails to realize that most of us artists and designers are also proficient practitioners. I guess he thinks that we just toss around any random baybayin character into our designs without any thought to words, language, and meaning.

    I’m willing to bet he has not seen my T-shirts at http://www.kakaiba.com with baybayin typographic designs. Some of the examples there of my work are quite obviously not devoid of meaning.

  2. I agree with you. It’s used mainly as a cultural symbol nowadays and not as an everyday means of exchanging messages, but that doesn’t mean people see it as nothing but meaningless abstract graphic signs. Not only do people who want tattoos want to make sure they spell the name right (even if they don’t always get the spelling right), but Bby is used as a cultural symbol of identity by businesses, government, and other organizations. Maybe a bit like Greek letters in the US: they’re not just meaningless symbols people put up in threes on frat/sorority houses and t-shirts: people have some understanding of what they mean and use them for things like math, but not to read write texts with (unless they’re actually in Greek of course). It may not be used like the Thais, the Laos, the Cambodians or Burmese still use their scripts, but it’s definitely doing a bit better than some of it’s sister scripts in Indonesia.

  3. Hey, guys–thanks so much for the extra information. I’ll be sure to correct what I say about Baybayin in the future. Feel free to send me any more details you’d like.
    Best wishes,
    Tim Brookes

  4. I think it is more of where the research was done. If it was in one of the metropolitan/megapolitan areas, then definitely Baybayin might appear forgotten.

    Another thing to consider is the fact that our current Education system calls it as “Alibata”. My experience always when talking to Filipinos, huge question marks appear above their heads when you keep on saying “Baybayin”. But once you mention “Alibata”, a huge lightbulb lights up so bright, you’ll immediately notice that they are interested with the subject.

    I was only lucky because I had professors/teachers that taught us that “Baybayin” is more accurate and fitting than “Alibata” so when I first encountered Baybayin online, I was already familiar with it. But for most Filipinos, we have to use “Alibata” just so it will ring-a-bell. Then from there, we can tell them why “Alibata” is wrong.

    The great thing with the Baybayin “revival” (if we can call it that) is that it is turning into a phenomenon. Slow yes, but it is there. The number of Baybayin fonts alone is growing, we have like 30-50 already? Filipinos are, dare I say, the most Nationalistic people in the whole world, rivaling the Chinese. Modern technology enabled us to connect to our ancestral roots which our established systems (like Education) is “epic” failing (seriously, first step for them is to stop teaching it as “Alibata” :p hello, PNoy and VNay).

    You know, for a “supposedly _dead_” writing script, it is getting a lot of attention today 😉 Step-by-step. First there was the excellent information/research by Paul Morrow (he’s not even a Filipino! If I’m not mistaken), then the tattoo artists like Christian here, game developers and himself a Baybayin hand-writer Nordenx, the fonts created by all of you three :p which also inspired other Filipinos to learn how to create fonts, and now the latest – a Baybayin Keyboard Layout for Linux and Windows.

    I’m sure the latest revelation about Dr. Jose Rizal’s Baybayin hand-writing will bring us to the next step. Who wouldn’t notice that? “Jose Rizal’s Baybayin _hand-writing_” ^_^

    Though we are not centralized in our efforts, we are setting the _modern_ foundation for Baybayin. Step-by-step, we are getting there, to our ultimate goal of bringing it back to daily use.

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